Telecoms News - In Brief

Telecoms

- South Africa’s Parliament has asked consumers and businesses who are exasperated by the high cost of cellphone calls to express their anger in writing. Public comments are being invited by Parliament's portfolio committee on communications, ahead of a showdown with cellular operators next month. The committee wants customers to comment on its plan to force operators to reduce the high cost of telecommunications, and particularly to comment on the interconnection fees they pay for making cross-networks calls. Comments from the public can be sent to nskaka@parliament.gov.za by October 2.

- Bloomberg reports that I-Tel Uganda will launch its CDMA-based mobile network in 38 towns across the country and plans to invest USD150 million over the next three years to expand its network. I-Tel will also offer fixed line telephony, data and research services, Augustus Caesar Mulenga, the firm’s Chief Executive Officer, told reporters. ‘Our investment will depend on conditions in the market. We may progressively invest up to USD150 million in three years if the conditions are favourable,’ he said.

- Workers of the troubled national carrier, Nitel, and its GSM arm, Mtel, have threatened to disrupt operations of the company over their 13 months unpaid salary arrears, lamenting that they are finding it difficult to cope with the economic situation in the country. So yet more mayhem for those who use its SAT3 landing station…

- Countries from across the African continent will join together in national pavilions to address the overarching theme of bridging the digital divide at ITU Telecom World 2009 in Geneva, from 5-9 October. Pavilions representing Burundi, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and the Africa Lusophone countries will unite a broad range of organisations from the non-profit, private and R&D sectors with the common goal of reasserting their commitment to information and communications technology (ICT) and digital development.

- Only 13% of Botswana’s pre-paid mobile phone users have registered their SIM cards, despite the deadline of 31 December 2009 fast approaching, writes local newspaper the Sunday Standard, citing the Botswana Telecommunications Agency’s (BTA’s) public relations officer Twoba Koontse. According to Koontse, only 267,113 pre-paid cell phone subscribers have registered since the BTA made the process mandatory from 15 September 2008.

­ Uganda's politicians have voted down a proposal to scrap a sales tax on mobile phones following concerns from the government that it needs the revenues the taxes generate. Phone dealers have long argued for the tax to be scrapped, citing increased levels of grey imports and smuggling from the neighbouring countries. The concerns were heightened when neighbouring Kenya lowered its taxes on mobile phone handsets earlier this year.